Pens could be bought; moved to Hartford
April 7, 2006 -- Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Massachusetts developer wants to buy the Penguins and either keep the hockey team in the city or move them to Hartford, Conn., where he is trying to get state officials to build a new arena, a newspaper reported Friday.

Lawrence Gottesdiener told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he owns a great deal of property in Hartford, so moving the team there makes sense for him.

"I see a really exciting future for that team," Gottesdiener told the newspaper. "If it can't be worked out in Pittsburgh ... we have a really huge real estate portfolio in Hartford."

Then Penguins had no comment on the story Friday.

"As a policy, we're not going to comment and we're not going to confirm or deny any of these inquiries," said Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan.

Late last year, Gottesdiener told Connecticut officials that he had a plan to bring an NHL team to the city if they would help him build a new 16,000-seat arena in Hartford, where his company, Northland Investment Corp., of Newton, Mass., owns about $500 million US worth of real estate.

The Penguins' lease on 45-year-old Mellon Arena, the oldest and smallest in the NHL, expires at the end of next season. Penguins owner Mario Lemieux is trying to sell the team and he has said a new owner would likely move out of Pittsburgh without a new arena.

There are two proposals to build a new arena for the team in Pittsburgh.

Both proposals are tied to gambling. Three companies are now seeking the right to open a slot machine parlor in Pittsburgh. Only one will win a license from the state to do so.

One of the companies, Isle of Capri Casinos, has agreed to pay the entire cost for a new one if it is awarded the licence.

City, county and state officials have countered with a backup plan that would require the Penguins to pay $8.5 million up front and make annual lease payments of $2.9 million. That plan calls for contributions from whichever gambling company wins the slots parlour licence.

Penguins representatives Thursday discussed the backup plan with city and county officials.

A Penguins consultant, David Morehouse, told the newspaper after that meeting that the team didn't learn enough about the proposal to decide whether to accept the alternative arena plan.

"There are still a number of questions that have to be answered before we can determine if it's viable," Morehouse said.

Among other things, he said it's not clear if Governor Ed Rendell could legally use slot machine proceeds to help fund the arena or whether another casino company would agree to contribute.

Hartford lost its NHL franchise when the Whalers moved to North Carolina and were renamed the Carolina Hurricanes.

Gottesdiener called the Penguins "an excellent entry point to get into the NHL. We've said that we're in this to buy an NHL team."